As recent events show, Washington is not only not going to stop countering the implementation of the most important project for transporting energy from Russia to Europe, but is also demonstrating its strongest intentions to bring this confrontation to a whole new level.
In any case, that’s how it is, according to the report of the US Republican Party Congressman Steve Womack, who told the world with great joy that the US Senate had already decided to introduce a new “portion” of extremely hard into the country's defense budget for next year sanctions against the pipeline under construction. Of course, this poses a serious threat to the interests of our country. However, another injured party in the case of the practical implementation of such intentions will inevitably be Germany, which until now was one of the main US allies in Europe.
Stop at all costs?
Recall - at present, the construction of Nord Stream-2 is considered to be 94% complete. However, Washington is doing everything possible and even impossible for the remaining 6% to become completely insurmountable Rubicon for Russia and its European partners in this project, and the “construction of the century” turned into an eternal “unfinished”. The most, perhaps, most serious blow to the gas pipeline was inflicted by the first stage of American sanctions imposed at the end of last year and aimed, first of all, at companies engaged in deep-water pipe laying and specialized vessels belonging to them. As you know, after this all work was immediately stopped by the Swiss company Allseas, just carrying out pipe laying. She recalled all three of her vessels involved in this work - Pioneering Spirit, Solitaire and Audacia. Now the hope remains, in fact, only for the Akademik Chersky pipe-laying machine owned by Gazprom.
Today, this vessel, which has undergone the necessary modernization in Nakhodka, has already reached the Baltic Sea, however, it is not in a hurry to enter into business. According to reports, it is parked in the port of Mukran on the island of Rugen. This can be considered evidence that Russia has so far taken a cautious and expectant position, not wanting to aggravate the situation. Nevertheless, such a tactic seems to be completely inconclusive - the United States will not calm down until it completely turns Nord Stream-2 into an enterprise that brings its participants and shareholders completely unacceptable problems and losses. Judging by the new draft restrictions, the main blow is planned to be delivered not so much in our country as in the interests of its partners in Europe, forcing them to abandon their last doubts about the advisability of continuing construction.
If earlier, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, one of the most ardent and consistent persecutors of Nord Stream-2 among American lawmakers, vaguely announced the planned "expansion of sanctions", as a result of which "literally everyone who has at least some relation to the construction of the gas pipeline, ”now the plans announced by him have taken on more concrete outlines. As far as we know, in accordance with the “expanded package” that lawmakers are trying to push into the military budget, not only pipe-laying companies, but also companies involved in trench, welding and any other work related to it will be hit.
Nor will he say hello to those who dare to render Nord Stream-2 services in other related fields of activity - geodesic, environmental protection and even insurance. Also, enterprises that will be entrusted with testing and certification of the gas pipeline will inevitably fall under sanctions. And this is already very serious - in fact, under such conditions, even the 100% completed Nord Stream-2 simply cannot be put into operation! The above-mentioned member of Congress, Steve Womack, openly declares his pride in being the co-author of the bill, which “must finally stop construction,” “being an instrument of coercion” and “threatening US national interests.” As we see, Washington does not agree on anything other than the complete "killing" of the gas pipeline.
“Conscious termination of the transatlantic partnership ..."
That is how Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, described the restrictions imposed in Washington. In his view, while continuing to impede the construction of Nord Stream-2, the United States does not simply go far beyond its own jurisdiction and crawl into those matters in which they have no right to intervene. The former head of the German state considers similar policies straight economic US aggression is not only specifically against Germany, but also against the entire European Union. Literally, he spoke about the impending sanctions very sharply: “This is an attack on the European economy, an unacceptable encroachment on the sovereignty of the EU and the energy security of Western Europe!”
In particular, Herr Schroeder is indignant at the fact that the Americans are taking such hostile actions against their “own primary NATO ally” precisely during the period of the “deepest economic crisis”. According to his calculations, the planned restrictions will affect at least 120 German enterprises and companies, one way or another connected with the construction of the Nord Stream-2, and, therefore, will put many European jobs at risk. We must pay tribute to the Germans - in matters of cooperation with their overseas “partners” they have long proceeded from purely pragmatic considerations, measuring everything for very specific euros and dollars. The most concrete example here is the situation with a reduction in the US military presence in Germany. Judging by the latest reports from Washington, the withdrawal from there of 9 and a half thousand troops of the US Army - the issue has already been finally resolved. And what excites Berlin most of all in this situation? The security of a country that is allegedly “being harmed”? The ephemeral "Russian threat"? No, completely different things.
The American military on German soil is, for its inhabitants, first of all, huge bases, which are truly “city-forming enterprises” for such towns as Ramstein-Miesenbach or Grafenver, whose population is two to three times less than the number of inhabitants (as the military itself, and members of their families) located nearby Pentagon facilities. Serving an American "guest in uniform" plays a significant role in ensuring employment for natives of Ansbach, Wiesbaden, Beblingen and other German settlements. According to estimates made in 2001 by the University of Trier, the U.S. Air Force bases alone, Ramstein and Spangdahl, contributed nearly one and a half billion euros (or 1.7 billion dollars) to the local economy and contributed to the creation of about 27 thousand jobs in the regions of their deployment.
On the one hand, the situation has changed quite dramatically since then - the contingent of the U.S. Army in Germany only decreased from 2006 and a half thousand people to the current 2018 from 72 to 34, respectively, and its contribution to the German economy decreased significantly. On the other hand, the conclusion of almost a third of this number just at the time of the recession that swept the eurozone after the coronavirus pandemic looks like a clear manifestation of Washington’s desire to “hit the dollar” with an ally who is considered too “negligent”, overweight, and also excessively loyal to Moscow . The American attacks on Nord Stream 2, which are becoming more systematic and furious, appear in the same light. Trump’s statements that in this way he seeks to "protect Germany from Russia" and "ensure its energy independence", no sane person seriously takes, of course. If only because they are more than clearly looming much more rigid dependence of the German and the entire European economy on American LNG.
How does Berlin intend to parry an upcoming strike? The question is very burning. Not so long ago, a very comprehensive article was published in the American edition of Bloomberg, the authors of which, referring to some “serious sources in the German government”, assured that this time, attempts to stop the construction of the gas pipeline without an answer from the German side, would definitely not remain. According to published information, this question is “personally supervised” by Angela Merkel, whose relationship with Donald Trump has long since cooled to the temperature of a space vacuum, and which does not intend to “release the brakes” on the next unfriendly Washington demarches.
At the same time, the chancellor, in the case of the introduction of additional sanctions against the construction of Nord Stream-2, aims not only to prepare a “powerful retaliatory strike from the German side” (as Bloomberg defined), but also to create a powerful pan-European coalition against attempts US to intervene in the sovereign affairs of the Old World. Berlin is not going to compete with Washington alone - if the events go according to the toughest option, the Americans may very well have to face consolidated economic measures on the part of the entire European Union or the majority of its members. At the same time, the position will be tough enough - as early as May 20 of this year, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas voiced it at his own level: "The German government resolutely rejects the US sanctions on the gas pipeline, considering them unjust and extraterritorial."
The last, perhaps, significant statement on this topic can be considered the words of the official representative of the German government Steffen Seibert, June 29 stating that Berlin "has not changed its position on sanctions." The Foreign Minister made it clear that Germany was only waiting for the decision of the US Congress to develop a response. Well, Washington’s intentions are voiced, more than concrete. Of course, the current demarche of senators is not a final decision. The House of Representatives should also make its own version of the military budget, and only after the special conciliation commission has worked out some option that suits everyone, it is voted by both houses of the US Supreme Legislature, and then it is sent to the president for signature.
However, it is hardly worthwhile to have particular hopes that at any of these stages the discriminatory measures against Nord Stream 2 will disappear from the document. In fact, declaring a "war of annihilation" of the most important Russian-German economic project, the United States literally forces our countries to come out against themselves as a united front and with a common goal. Will this happen? We will see in the near future.